A brief history of the jetpack

Date:11 October 2013 Tags:, , ,

From sci-fi to sky-high, we bring you a crash course on an extremely unnatural way to get high.

By Amanda green

1886: Scientists in Jules Verne’s Robur the Conqueror, aka The Clipper of the Clouds, predict a future of “flying machines” that allow man to walk on air.

1955: Stanley Hiller debuts the Hiller VZ-1 Flying Platform, which includes two Nelson H-59 engines, a fan and two large propellers. One step closer to everyone having a jetpack, right?

1958: Thiokol Chemical Corporation markets its jump belt, a strap-on rocket fuelled by nitrogen tanks – not as a flying machine, but as a device to enhance athletes’ jumping and running ability.

1960: Bell Aerosystems engineer Wendell Moore develops the Bell Rocket Belt for the US Army. The device runs on hydrogen peroxide and includes hand controls for steering the right. Problem: it can thrust for only 21 seconds.

1965: In Thunderball, James Bond (Sean Connery) kills SPECTRE operative Colonel Jacques Bouvar and flees in a Bell Rocket Belt. The gadget reappears 37 years later in Die Another Day, starring Brosnan, Pierce Brosnan.

1984: Bill Suitor (Sean Connery’s jetpack stunt double) flies into Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum during the Summer Olympics opening ceremony. Too bad the Soviets boycotted the games, because even their judges would’ve been impressed.

1991: It’s a bird, it’s a plane – well, it’s actually just a guy who found a Howard Hughes-designed jetpack in The Rocketeer.

1994: Nasa introduces the SAFER (Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue), a propulsive backpack for when astronauts come untethered during space walks.

2005: MythBusters Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman try to build a jetpack using plans they bought online. They fail and remain grounded.

2006: Swiss pilot Yves Rossy invents a kerosene-burning pack with wings. He uses it to fly over the Swiss Alps, cross the English Channel, and crash into the Strait of Gibraltar. (He’s okay.

2012: Jetlev rocks the boat with a R1-million jetpack that can launch people up to 10 metres high using water as a propellant.

2013: Soaring with a V4 petrol engine and two ducted fans, the Martin Jetpack reaches a record 1 500-metre altitude. Lacking investors, what would be the first commercially available device of its kind, priced at R750 000, still awaits takeoff.

Pictures by Getty Images (Rossy, Mythbusters)


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